Objective: This study examines changes in cancer-related health behaviors and risk factors (overweight/obesity, unhealthy diet, high alcohol use, and smoking), and screening practices related to cervical, breast, and colorectal cancer among Latinos of predominantly Mexican origin in Monterey County, California.
Design: Data is from two cross-sectional surveys, conducted in 1990 and 2000, that included 919 women and 774 men from a community sample, and 276 men from an agricultural labor camp sample (ages 18-64).
Results: Over the 10-year period, the prevalence of obesity increased by 48% among community women, 47% among community men, and 91% among labor camp men. Although consumption of fruits and vegetables remained low and consumption of fried foods remained high, other diet-related behaviors showed significant improvements (e.g. milk consumption shifted from whole-fat to lower-fat among women from the community and men from the labor camps, use of lard or meat fat when cooking decreased among women and men from the community). In addition, alcohol intake decreased among men from both samples, as did smoking among labor camp men. There were large improvements for annual pap and mammography screening (increases from 53 to 71% for pap testing, and from 15 to 53% for mammography screening) but annual blood stool testing remained infrequent and unchanged.
Conclusion: These findings highlight the need for interventions and policies that improve knowledge, preventive care, and social environments to sustain improvements and address areas of special need in cancer prevention for Latinos, especially related to obesity and colorectal screening.